Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DNC Day 1 - Guam as a Part of Hawai'i

I've only been here for less than one day, but I've already heard personally some say "Guam, isn't that part of Hawai'i?"
A member of the Guam delegation told me that, they are here in order to celebrate and be part of the Democratic party and the United States, but they are also here to inform the United States about Guam, to let them know that we exist and that we are part of them. In order to facilitate this informing, the members chose to wear matching blue or red Hawai'i print shirts and dresses each day. The result is that thay have been very popular with the other delegates, and often receive "ALOHA!" shouts from random delegates.

According to this Guam delegate, they usually cheerfully shout back "Hafa Adai!"
I understand this point about informing the people in the United States about your existence, that is what every Chamorro in the United States has to do, all the time, whether they want to or not, and even Guam's non-voting delegate in Congress is forced to endure the same burden of just overwhelming colonial ignorance by America when it comes to their own damn colonies. The Hawaiian shirts provide an easy way of getting recognized, of having people come up to you and have their picture taken with you, of having people ask who you are and when you're from.

On the other hand, they create what is a very easy memory hole for the very people you are trying to inform and get to recognize you. The Hawaiian shirts create the conditions for an obvious misrecognition of who you are and where you come from (Chamorro or from Guam), and more importantly a very convenient misrecognition of what you represent in relation to the United States, namely the fact that you come from a territory and not a state.

The fact that people at the Convention think of Guam as being part of Hawai'i, with or without the Hawaiian shirts, could be traced to a simple ignorance, but its is also a very useful ignorance for a people who don't want to acknowledge their empire, their colonies. It means that the specificity of Guam's political status, its unequal nature has in a way been solved, by making Guam an equal part of the US through Hawai'i, or it could simply mean a way that Guam and its interests can be reduced to simple exotic native dancing or hospitality, much in the way that Hawai'i can still be treated. Either way, it is not the sort of ignorance that one should cheerfully dismiss with a Hafa Adai, it is something which ties right to heart of why Guam is a colony of the United States, and why it will most likely continue to be one for a very long time.

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